During the holiday season, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is heard everywhere from shopping malls to television commercials to church functions. But what does any of this mean? What does a song about doves, hens and geese have to do with Christmas? The carol has its roots in 18th-century England, as a memory-and-forfeit game sung by British children. In the game, players had to remember all of the previous verses and add a new verse at the end. Those unable to remember a verse paid a forfeit, in the form of a kiss or a piece of candy to the others. One theory, however, connects the carol to the era when Catholicism was outlawed in England, from and The carol , it is said, was a catechism song for Catholics to learn "the tenets of their faith," as they could not openly practice in Anglican society [source: Snopes. While many still hold the idea of a coded hymn to be true, there's no substantive evidence that this was the case, nor is there any evidence that the verses contain anything uniquely Catholic.
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The 12 Days of Christmas are now most famous as a song about someone receiving lots of presents from their 'true love'. However, to get to the song there had to be the days to start with! The 12 Days have been celebrated in Europe since before the middle ages and were a time of celebration.
The tunes of collected versions vary. The standard tune now associated with it is derived from a arrangement of a traditional folk melody by English composer Frederic Austin , who introduced the familiar prolongation of the verse "five gold rings" now often "five golden rings". There are twelve verses, each describing a gift given by "my true love" on one of the twelve days of Christmas. There are many variations in the lyrics. The lyrics given here are from Frederic Austin 's publication that established the current form of the carol. On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me A partridge in a pear tree. On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me Two turtle doves , And a partridge in a pear tree.